Friday, December 14, 2007

What Happened Two Months Ago.

The Scenario: A cartoon and caricature competition in school. Just when I’m rushing around because of a play we are supposed to perform in two days (and we still haven’t found a place to practice in, because space just does not exist in my school) my commercial art teacher heightens my state of near-hysteria by threatening me with painful death if I don’t submit an entry.

The Thought Process: What do I draw? A political caricature will take too long. I can’t do a comic strip, I barely have time to breathe and creating a superhero-type adventure will tax my brain to a point of no return… wait, my brain is already beyond that. What is the most unoriginal thing I can do?

The Eureka Moment: Puja ate up most of my lunch today. Mean girl. I shall have to get back at her for… aha. Ping!

The Procedure: This is the easiest part – I’ve grown up with this girl for fifteen years, I could draw her wide grin in my sleep. I have my entry! If only plays could be drawn.


The Result: I walk into school, and realise that the softboards in the lobby look different. The results have been pinned up! Gasp! I won!

The Realisation: This is a public place. People walk through this. Puja will walk through this. Puja will see this. Puja will murder me.

The Battleplan: Bahrain. Bahrain is a good place to go into hiding. I shall tell my folks I need some sun and sand and a place where I can be swathed in cloth and not be recognized.

The Wait: Day One, no angry friend assaulting me with nunchucks. Day Two, no assassination attempts. Day Three, still alive. Day four. Everyone else has seen the cartoon and Puja still hasn’t realized why they’re sniggering. Bless her. Day Five. Apocalypse.

The Denouement: Two gasps, a quivering pointed finger and a ferocious snarl later, my wronged friend proceeds to eat up my lunch for tolerating my witlessness for so many years. She does a very good job of making sure I don’t get a bite.

The Moral: Revenge doesn’t pay. Especially if you mess with a big eater.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Somewhere. A. Clock. Is. Ticking.

I'm bored, so I think I'll do this tag. It looks interesting, and besides, I'm assuming it has a purpose. I like to be optimistic.

Rules:
1. Put your MP3 player on shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write the name of the song no matter what. No cheating!

IF SOMEONE SAYS “IS THIS OKAY?” YOU SAY?
What Difference Does It Make? - The Smiths (aha, I see why they say this is fun)

WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
Ramble On - Led Zeppelin (hah. How apt.)

WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
The End - The Doors (ahhahahhahahahhahaaaaaaaaaaa. This is too funny.)

HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
I am the Walrus - The Beatles (*sniggers*)

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE?
Super Mario Brothers – Phish (yeah!)

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
Take Me Home Country Roads - John Denver (I haven't heard this since.. this brings back fest memories)

WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
Unsolved Mysteries - Animal Collective (Yeah, right. I'm about as mysterious as a teacup.)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR PARENTS?
Mea Culpa – Enigma… HAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAAA. Isn't mea culpa “my fault” in latin?

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
Suicide is Painless – Nick Drake (*stares at screen incredulously for a moment, then falls off chair*)

WHAT IS 2+2?
Spark – Nitin Sawhney (It could be, you know. How I love this song)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
Some Kind Of Wonderful – Joss Stone (Aww, how true)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
By The Way - Red Hot Chili Peppers (eh?)

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
Love, Reign O’er Me - The Who (Huh? What? HOW?)

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
TwentySomething – Jamie Cullum (That's it, my player is psychic.)

WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Stay (wasting time) – Dave Matthews Band (I love how randomly intuitive this tag is.)

WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones (hahahhahahah, again)

WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
Any Colour You Like – Pink Floyd *raises eyebrow*

WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
Castles in the Air – Don McLean
(Wow, wow, wow. "For I cannot be part of the cocktail generation/ partners waltz, devoid of all romance/ the music plays, and everyone must dance/ I'm bowing out, I need a second chance. Perfect. One of the most PERFECT songs ever written.)

WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
Butterflies and Hurricanes - Muse (I shall have to turn philosophical now at the enormity of the force that is an average windows media player.)

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?
Waiting on the World to Change – John Mayer (This tag never ceases to amaze me)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
In Limbo - Radiohead (Haha. Haha. All hail Radiohead!)

WHAT SHOULD YOU POST THIS AS?
Somewhere a Clock is Ticking - Snow Patrol.

H'm. This tag did have a purpose, although I can't pinpoint the purpose now. I never can. I shall blush and eat my words one at a time, and very humbly at that. I just thinkIt would have been funnier if I'd had all my Hindi songs on my computer (ah Rafi, ah Mukesh), but then my computer would have mutinied on a regular basis if I had all my music on it. Not that it doesn't mutiny now. I'm still not sure whether computers are kindred, but if you are, I tag you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reflections on Life, and Brinjals.

I remember holding my breath for a moment when I discovered there had been a bomb blast in Varanasi. I also remember cursing my father silently for gallivanting off to the city to watch the Dev Deepavali celebrations without foreseeing a possible terrorist attack by a bunch of lunatics, even if it was miles away from the ghats. What I do not remember, however, is asking him to bring back vegetables from Benaras, which is a city famous for things more exotic and intoxicating than, well, vegetables. And not just any vegetables, oh no. Brinjals.

And not just any brinjal, this brinjal.



This brinjal, as you have no doubt concluded, has weight issues. It probably has a varied and intriguing genealogy that I am not aware of, claiming kinship to a family of very superior Benarasi eggplants. It’s the size of a small baby, only cleaner and a lot less wrinkled. It also has personality - I feel this uncontrollable urge to carve a funny face onto it, but my mother won't let me. Since I have concluded that it is a waste of time and blogspace to try and analyse the reasons as to why I should not attack a vegetable with a knife creatively when in all likeliness it will be hacked to pieces anyway and cooked on a flame slowly and mercilessly whether I carve it or not, I will not elaborate on the cheerless lives that brinjals lead. I will leave it where it is, sitting plump and self-assured on our dining table, and throw it awed glances from time to time.

Never, ever ask fathers to bring back gifts from trips. This is what you’ll get stuck with. It doesn’t help that I am a worthless lump that finds brinjals fascinating. And I have a Hindi exam the day after. Sometimes I wish I could go back to being a toddler, when life was a lot simpler and I didn’t have to give exams and my parents loved me because they realized that the things I did weren’t exactly my fault. Like when I pulled down all the sarees from the shelf of my mother’s wardrobe and, excited because of all the colour, started rolling around in a labyrinth of long, colourful, tangled-up sarees, eventually succeeding in semi-strangulating myself. I was rescued and pacified and pampered for a while after, I’m told. But if I tried that as a teenager I doubt they’d buy it. Not that I have tried it, I’m just trying to point out the difference. And no, I do not have a twisted mind. I just do not see why I was lauded for cheating death at a time when I would've said “Goo” if you threw a word like “existentialist” at me.

But I’m rambling now. Back to Hindi. I have a whole chapter with extracts from the Ram Charit Manas, which is written in Awadhi. I’m sure it is a beautiful language, but everytime I read it out loud I find myself sniggering at how flatulent it sounds. And no, I am not cultureless. I just fail to see why Tulsidas never realized the poetic quality that brinjals exude.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Afterwards.

The situation has never been stranger. A little after I finished reading The Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham and drifted off into a happy slumber peppered with dreams of tropical islands and vivid paintings, I woke up to find that Calcutta had, literally, gone nuts. There I was on the sofa, clutching my blanket, watching people running wild across the television. Angry mobs, burning vehicles, the works. I watched it all with a vague distaste for the excited face of the correspondent, called up a friend in Park Circus to check if she was all right, then went back to my room, and looked at a picture of my favourite Gauguin.



Breasts and Red Flowers is one of the many names given to a painting that makes me feel strangely calm, and very, very small. I’ve always loved most of what Gauguin painted, not because it’s rebellious or erratically beautiful or disturbing, but because there is so much life in it. The colours are bright, and the brushstrokes seem to say, I enjoyed painting this; this is what life should be. Even the most sedentary figures seem to breathe with a joyous celebration: they know that they have lived the way they want to, and that they have no one to answer to. No riots, no backbiting because they believe their God is greater than someone else’s, no petty rivalries that escalate into ego clashes.

The past few weeks have been so irksome, not in the sense that they’ve depressed me about the political situation around – I always knew that it was this way. It’s just that the idealist in me refuses to give up (or grow up), in spite of all the newspapers and documentaries and genocides and war novels, not to mention two years of political science as a subject. I felt so tired, so tired that Nandigram happened, and that it happened the way it did. And that yesterday’s mob had to pelt stones at people to make a stance clear. And that at the end of the day no one really cares about a political war or a protest against blasphemy, except to feel an irritation for being inconvenienced, or to worry about the people they care for who might be trapped by the disturbance.

It has been three years since I visited Kashmir. Three years since I saw a shikara laden with flowers glide across water and felt a hopeless despair that something so beautiful must be wasted for a barbed wire demarcating territories on a planet that was never ours. Yesterday I revisited that surreal holiday, so captivating and yet so distressing, and I thought again of that little flower girl on the shikara, smiling sunnily at me as I sat on the steps of the houseboat, and I wondered why I was feeling so annoyed when people there still smiled. And then, I turned to the Gauguin. Do the women with the mango blossoms think of their island as Tahiti, or home?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Don't ever babble to babies. They'll be laughing silently.

I hate attending social functions, mainly because my parents got married early. Observing their condition after I was born, all their friends took a hint and decided to maintain their sanity and singledom for as long as possible, with the result that there is never anyone my age to talk to. Of course, magnanimous Priyanka is invariably told to babysit the little kids around. What people fail to recognize is that there’s a fundamental reason to leave a nation-wide gap between me and their kids (some have realized it, though, the difficult way). Kids tend to like me, but that is because my way of handling kids is to treat them like invaders from outer space – answer all questions, explain all discrepancies, let them learn about the world around them, and make up a few things along the way. Adults, however, use a different term – Corrupting Young Minds.

I tend to go a little gaga around kids. The evil kind of gaga. I realised a long time back that the easiest way to keep things under control was to make up a hideously improbable, exceedingly fantastic game with about a hundred rules. By the time the game gets sorted out and the rules get narrowed down to about fifteen (with me protesting lustily all the while) it’s usually time for dinner. Some of the elders did complain that pretending to be an amusement park in a zero-gravity zone did not help: even though the Ferris wheel and the pirate ship were moving around in slow motion, pretending to float, they still managed to knock vases off tables. Now try telling an adult that fragile vases perched precariously on dainty lace-matted tables are just begging to be broken.

I was in the Corrupt Young Minds zone again this evening, because I was deserted by both my parents in the middle of a wedding hall. The food wasn’t ready, because it was a cousin tying the knot, and we caring relatives just had to arrive early to bicker about the table arrangements and group up into armies and try and take control of a situation that didn’t need any handling anyway. And then someone thrust this baby at me, which was a lot worse. Still, it wasn’t long before Srishti and I were fraands as fraands could be. We pretended to be three-toed sloths all evening. It’s really simple – all you need to do is look upon the world with a jaundiced eye while you’re actually pretending to sleep. You may drool into the bargain. Srishti won by a large margin, but got excused for her undeniable cuteness. Let’s not start about me. It takes me a while to realise why people tend to smile uncertainly at me from a distance and then utter a silent “phew” when they walk away. But when I do, I stop pretending to be a three-toed sloth. I am very discerning that way.

We brought Srishti back home for a while. Here are this evening’s insights into child psychology:

1) When you make funny faces at a baby, chances are it will stare at you sternly.

2) When you continue making funny faces at a baby, chances are it will try to nibble at your hair defensively.

3) When you put a hyperactive baby on a bright red bedsheet, expect a hysterical burst of giggles, followed by a fascinated inspection of the pattern on the sheet.



There's the hysteria. You had to hear it to believe it.


4) If you swing a baby around, saying, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superbaby!!!” it is equivalent to getting it hooked on drugs. You shall have to make your makeshift superhero fly till your arms fall off, or endure supersonic wails the moment Superbaby’s toes touch ground.

5) Babies put everything in their mouths. Everything. I wonder if this is the result of a latent desire to eat their tiresome parents. Does a baby wonder whether I am digestible when it eyes me adoringly?

I'm trying to stop her from meditatively chewing a magazine. She was, in effect, masticating bits of Benazir Bhutto's face. Most unhealthy.

After being kissed goodbye by everyone, Srishti was whisked away and we all paused, for a moment, to heave a little sigh and wish she hadn’t left. There’s something about babies that makes people act like sentimental idiots. It is better to have a dog, I think. At least it won’t grow up and send you to an old-age home, or turn to crime and get your name in the newspapers - if you're lucky.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Eternal Sunshine of the Inscrutable Mind

This is the male ward of the occupational therapy and rehabilitation center that we are visiting for a psychology field trip, macabre as that sounds. Twenty-four students and one very attractive teacher – they are not used to so much female energy, one might say. We have been warned not to startle, provoke, or offend the “clients", as a result of which silence hangs heavy in the air along with much fidgeting and sideways-glances.

The inmates speak about their stay here, and I let my eyes travel. The one on the left is wearing bright blue slippers. He slides his feet out of them as he speaks, then slides them back in again, so that I can see a repetitive pattern of skin-blue-skin-blue-skin-blue. This is something that I would do at home, that anyone would do unconsciously, but here all actions are automatically accounted for as unnatural. A slight twitching of an eyebrow is a signal, the scratching of a wrist an omen. The one who is speaking has funny ears that stick out of his head. I smile silently at this curiously eager man who is telling us about his vocational training classes. And then I see him. He sits there, last in a row of five, surveying us visitors with a languorous elegance so unlike the others. I follow his gaze. While we have been studying the other clients, he has been surveying us. He sizes up every face, cool as steel, mentally passes a judgment, and moves on.

I do not like the way these men have been lined up against a wall like prisoners with us watching them, even if they are seated and fed. I look around the room – a television, a heavily scarred dartboard, chairs, drab walls. Heavy bars on windows. To all purposes it is a well-kept room, but the impersonal character of it appalls me. How terrible that one must live with white walls and bars on the windows: all of a sudden, the dartboard and the lone calendar seem so sorry, so wistful – vain attempts to bring about a sense of existence. Even if I were stark raving mad and far removed from this world, somewhere within me I would know that this is not how my room should look – no flowery curtains, no cheerful artifacts. The clients should not be disturbed, but would it not be a lot more disturbing to never catch a glimpse of a bright colour?

I catch his eye. He has been following my eyes around the room, and he knows what I am thinking. I come back to the conversation guiltily. It doesn’t mean much – the virtues of the institution are being extolled. The men speak fluently, logically, and intelligibly. If we did not know that they had a range of disorders ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to schizophrenia, we would be sitting easy, our legs more relaxed, our faces infinitely more open. And he knows this, this elegant man with the grey hair and the keen eyes and the long pianist-like fingers. I wonder what disorder he has. What could possibly be wrong with this scholarly man who is the only one out of the five who doesn’t slouch, or keep fiddling with the folds of his trousers? He has charm, this man. Someone must have loved him once – does he think of past memories through the days he spends here?

My romantic musings are brought to a halt. We leave the room, and are then given detailed case histories of the clients. Varied accounts of mental illness, each more startling than the earlier. I suddenly realise that these men are fairly stable - the Acute Ward is three floors above and access is denied. And yet, the man with the funny ears has a lethal combination of schizophrenic delusions and obsessive-compulsive disorder - not something I would call stable. The charming man I found so interesting has bipolar mood disorder. I try to imagine him vacillating between extreme depression and extreme mania, and fail. Switching from euphoria to devastation is not something that suits him. I snap back to reality. Not something that suits him, as if disorders were clothes.

As we leave, we pass the section of the ward where the more unstable clients are – one of them clutches the iron bars, and mumbles at us. His mouth droops, and he stares at us students vacantly. “Whatever you have learnt here, forget it!” he says. “Fuh-get it”. He rattles the bars and repeats the sentence again, and again, and again with a slurry Americanised accent. We are ushered out hurriedly. As I watch fascinated, the Charming Man, who has been let back into his ward, comes up and stands next to the mumbler and smiles, as if to say “You came to see lunatics: here they are.”

He knows we have not been disappointed. We have received our performance of something Not Normal. What a show we’ve put up for you, his smile says, The grand finale to a dull afternoon. Now go spread the message. He knows we will be telling this tale wide-eyed to other people, further enlarging the gap between his bare room and our comfortable cocoons. He knows that at the end of the day the only thing barring us from understanding him is our perception of him, which is why the human mind will probably never be deciphered. He knows.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ineptitude, and a Little Whining.

Am going through a most distressing phase in my life. It’s called Writing Application Essays For College. And I'm sure that anyone who has been through this phase will sympathise with me. It is simply not possible to write anything at this point of time without thinking, “What does this show about my character? Am I sounding Different enough? Does it provide the Big Picture? What is the Big Picture? Aaargh, where is coffee when you need it?”

I grow old. I can’t write essays without making them look like blog posts, and I can’t write blog entries without going into essay mode. So I know what I’m going to do for a while. I won’t write at all. Yes, you heard right. Start celebrating. If at all you feel the need to remind yourself of my presence, go visit my deviantArt webpage. Photography has been a guilty passion with me for a while; I used to think myself pretty good at it, till this thing called Orkut materialised and suddenly everyone looked beautiful and seductive because of experimenting with their camera phones. When you can have an alluring display picture, who needs a photograph?

If it makes anyone feel any better, there are only five photographs on it as of now. http://www.disruptedswansong.deviantart.com

Friday, October 5, 2007

An Other Effort

Let me tell you the story behind this poem. I remember posting about my inability to write what I like to call deepdarkmorbidpoetry, and newagescheherazade, as is her wont, told me that she'd like to see me try my hand at it. And I, as is my wont, did. Here is the result. I'm warning you beforehand, though. I am no poet. I am not much of a rhymer. What I am, I think, is a singularly thick-headed experimenter. Just don't lynch me for it.

Anthem For Doomed Youth (Part Two!!)

It seems a rule of some eminence
That teenage poetry must be devoid of common sense.
A teenager must never write a word
That is funny, ridiculous or absurd
For why would the world want to know
About anything but our personal woe?

People think we’re morbid, but we can tell
They’re wishing all teenagers were in hell.
No one understands what we go through
So this is how we make you go through it too
By making sure our poems get into the newspapers,
So that your perfect Sunday goes up in vapours,
So that life suddenly turns into a huge inkblot,
And you shout at your maid because the tea isn’t hot.
Then the maid berates the poor milkman
For bringing milk in a dented can
And the milkman goes on to the corner shop
And tells the owner that his liquor is slop.
So the circle of gloom creates a worldwide fuss,
But no one gives the credit to us.

If you think of why we suffer from depression,
It’s because you laugh at our freedom of expression.
Some years down the line we’ll be adults too,
With taxes that are hefty, and paychecks that are few.
And then we’ll open a paper to find that the press
Has included a poem filled with angst and distress.
And then we’ll wonder what the writer had to face
That didn’t include bosses or financial disgrace.
We’ll have forgotten that what we once wrote
Was somewhat like this gloomy anti-antidote.

It seems very funny to me
That we teenagers write poetry
To contend with the fact that one day
As a grown-up, for our youth we’ll have to pay.
While grown ups criticize youthful verse
Not knowing that they once wrote something quite like this.

Only a lot, lot worse.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Two Lives.

There have been enough things happening around me lately for me to retire into my habitual cocoon and watch the world through the crook of my elbow. World Cups. Revolutions. My mother’s thirty-third midlife crisis attack, which made her buy a pair of bright blue leggings.

Which is why I am profoundly happy that Paati has arrived. Paati, my maternal grandmother, is one of my Favourite People in the world because she’s never given up on me, no matter what I’ve done. Nothing I say seems to ruffle her, and nothing I do is unwomanly (did you ever think it possible?). She flies down from Bombay once a year to brighten my world, reteach me the Tamil I have forgotten, and cook me some exotic South Indian dishes, the secret recipes to which are so well-hidden that my mother can never recall where she’s put them. And she never buys me anything, because she knows instinctively that I will love her all the more if she hands me the money instead. And, most importantly, she talks enough sense into my mother to last another year.

She arrived today. She looked as straight and capable as ever, but there is a stoop about her shoulders that was not there before. She moves more slowly than last year, and has more tablets to swallow. And I heard her comparing her medical evils with my paternal grandfather, and it seems like not all is quiet on the Ageing Front. I feel rather heartbroken. Two of the people I love most are getting old, and how. And though they don’t show it, there is that vague feeling of inevitability and rheumatism and ointment about their conversation. I wonder why I never noticed it earlier. Maybe it’s the horridness of having to grow up and realise things. Maybe it’s just something you have to realise sooner or later.

This post wasn’t meant to be about Paati, or about how depressing it is that people have to grow old, but now that it has turned out this way I don’t think I’ll change it. I’m lucky to have two wonderful grandparents left, and I’m thankful that they’re here now, sitting on the sofa, sipping their tea and conversing in the unique mixture of Hindi-Tamil-Malayalam that comes only to people who have lived long enough to transcend the boundaries of what words mean. These are people who know about silent company.

I did not mean to sound whimsical or nostalgic. I suppose it comes out of my incorrigible liking for stories of any sort, and grandparents are synonymous with stories. Their memories are entire universes, and there isn’t a better way of spending an afternoon than curling up in the balcony and listening to sepia-tinted stories of forgotten childhoods and long-dead romances and family scandals. For someone growing up suspended between three cultures and five languages, hearing family histories recounted is sometimes the best way of hooking on to an identity. This woman sounds like me. That is something I would have done. This is how my grandparents got married. This is what my mother did when she was three. This is why I am. There is much hidden romance in memories, and it is when they are recounted that I see how much hidden romance there is in grandparents. I just have to get the stories flowing, and the wistful wisdom comes out in ways that astonish me, till I remember that these stories are bits of their lives.

Grandparents are very exciting. Yes, I know what that sounds like. But it is true. They make my world a more interesting place, and I don't know what I shall do when they're gone.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Cows. And Karma.

Dawn breaks as we rumble in on a deceptively solid-looking Sumo, and, ironically, the first sound I hear is a muezzin’s call for prayer. Stereotypical sadhu with matted hair and rotten teeth and saffron and ashes everywhere grins at me. I grin back, taking in the beedi in his hand and the tattered Nike sneakers on his feet.

Within ten minutes of being in Benaras I know that the theories of its existence are hogwash. I have a new theory about how Benaras came into being. God (If, hypothetically, there is a God) built two armies composed entirely of streets and buildings and cowsheds, and made them have an epic showdown in Benaras, and what we see now are the remains of the battlefield. I have never seen so many twisted streets and convoluted paths turning at so many angles. Dilapidated buildings shoot out here, there and everywhere, forming narrow alleys where sunlight filters in through balcony grills and the odd shaft between terraces. A canopy of concrete with no beginning and abrupt ends.



There is much to be said about Benaras being the cosmic center of the universe, about its throbbing, unwavering intensity, about the faith that keeps it running, but it does not matter in the alleyways. They are part of a separate, magical world. Peeling paint that was once bright blue or red adorns doors, balconies, random flower pots, and at times, a rusty clothesline. A stray voice leads us into a stuffy room below ground level where a man sits grinning at us, prayer cap on head, trying to keep his henna-stained beard out of a loom holding the most magnificent silk saree I have ever seen. Silver shining through vivid pink, setting a dusty room alight. Beribboned children chase colourful hens over little ditches and canals. Windows leer out of ancient facades.

Everything looks like it will crumble to pieces if I put out a finger and touch it, and getting lost is easier than buying a bottle of mineral water. I do not like temples, and I do not care for religion. But this, this enchantment - I can live with this for three days, even grow to like it.

Cowdung is everywhere, and in all forms – caked, slushy, fresh. We cannot go anywhere without a bovine tail brushing against our legs. You cannot drive a vehicle here more than a foot wide, so we walk around, circumnavigating cattle and bicycles. And we walk further into a maze we don’t know how to exit, speaking to people whose names we do not know, watched by little eyes behind curtains. Spluttering mobikes sing along to crackling radio songs. Wafts of cigarette and incense smoke float around, creating a musty universe that seems far removed from philosophy and faith – in this world there is only life, and its living. There are only people, and their little routines. This is the Benaras away from the ghats and the temple spires. A world of simplicity and narrow-lined everydayness, living on borrowed time and tea.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dental rhymes with Mental.

She looked me up and down with the air of a prospective owner eyeing a particularly flea-ridden mongrel. A slight smirk flitted across her face, to be replaced almost instantly by a patent sympathetic mask. I squirmed, wishing I was anywhere else in the world except in this terrible room with the gleaming white floors and the stark white tubelights and the sleek little glass cupboards all around holding pink plaster casts of a hundred unlucky jaws.

“The doctor will see you now”, she trilled, and led me into an ante-chamber. I visualized lightning outside, in accompaniment to eerie organ music. I rose, gulped, and walked in. Ladies and gentlemen, the most defining moment of my life. The Dentist’s Chamber.

The doctor, an exquisite woman with the most perfect haircut in the world, made the mistake of smiling at me. I smiled back and watched her face assume the expression of incredulousness that a pope would accord a heretic. The problem? I was an innocent kid, and one of my milk teeth wouldn’t fall off. It’d shake and quiver and provide me with numerous hours of tooth-wobbling entertainment, but wouldn’t pop out. My parents, both sets of grandparents, and an enthusiastic cousin all tried to pull it out, coming up with ingenious (and, occasionally, unmentionable) ideas, but to no avail. It stayed put, and off I toddled to the doctor. She tugged at it with a torturous pliers-like thing till it came off with a loud scrunch, stuck a wad of cotton into the crater, and told me to go off and eat an ice-cream. She even gave me a kinder smile.

The smile grew wider when I came back a second time. Another little sucker wouldn’t vacate. She pulled it out, and off I went. Then came a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, and her smiles grew wider. To put it subtly, I made the dentist rich. Not one of my milk teeth fell off of their own accord, and she pulled them all out till I was convinced I had set a new world record.

A new set of teeth came up, and I thought I’d been given a new lease on life. Turns out I was too optimistic. Back I went to The Woman for a filling. Then another, and another. Fillings were a different kind of pain – not only did they hurt like the dickens, but the noise was like a pneumatic drill, and the moment the sneering assistant stuck a little suction pipe into my mouth to drain out the excess saliva, I knew I’d lost all dignity. Oh, the ignominy.

Finally, Perfect Hair gave up on me, and referred me to another dentist, whose chamber was a lot, lot worse. It had beautifully framed certificates of all the degrees that allowed her to torture humans dentally, and it put me off immediately. This lady I christened Plastic Smile. She fake-smiled her way to my mother’s heart by introducing me to cartoon versions of all my teeth on a candy-coloured chart on her wall (Meet Mr. Molar! And his friend Carrie Canine!). Then she pulled on a pair of snazzy blue gloves, and plunged her hands into my mouth as if it were the most fashionable thing in the world. Then came the dramatic sigh, followed by a revelation: She couldn’t help me either, except by filling up another two cavities (one of them in my right-hand Mr. Molar). What I needed, she stated, starry-eyed, was an orthodontist.

Imagine an equatorial forest. Imagine the trees battling it out for that one patch of sunlight, straining to outgrow each other, shooting up willy-nilly all over the place. Imagine them all crowded together, trying to twist around each other, putting out branches at odd angles, jostling each other for space. And then, try to imagine a mouthful of teeth trying to kid themselves into believing that they are an equatorial forest. That, in short, was my mouth.

What I needed, she chirped, was braces. Then she waved the reference letter at my mother, and deprived us of a lot of money that, if saved, could have bought me a cartload of big-boxed birthday presents.

The orthodontist was a lot nicer than I thought. I took to him immediately because he said “Why, there’s nothing wrong with you! Nothing that we can’t fix, at any rate.” I sighed. I was human after all, and not the victim of an inordinately sinful past life. But as they say, there are different forms of evil. A nurse with two mismatched colours of nail enamel on each hand (hyperventilation alert number one) brought what looked like a box of pink paste along with two kidney-shaped hollow metal thingies (hyperventilation alert number two), and proceeded to spoon the paste into the metal containers, nodding sagely at me all the time (hyperventilation alert number three).

I should have run when I had the chance. The paste-filled metal things were then clapped onto my teeth, and held there for a bleeding five minutes till they solidified. I waited there with little pieces of pink gunk dripping down my throat and trying to get the Benadryl-ish taste out of my mind, till the evil nurse pulled the things off. And I finally realized what I’d been stupid enough not to notice earlier: that this was how they got those jaw impressions in the glass cases.

Then came a most interesting operation to pull down the hidden Carrie Canine that never quite poked its way through my gums. It is strange to see a surgeon putting a hooked needle into your mouth and pulling it out, drawing out a pattern of black thread going in and out, in and out, and to know that it is technically your flesh that he is cutting open and sewing up like a neat little seamstress, and yet not to be able to feel the pain. The wonders of local anaesthesia. My face for a week afterwards resembled that of a troll with mumps, but we’ll pass over that.

To cut an epic story short (and to refrain from grossing a lot of people out) I shall pass over the fitting of the metal wires, the glueing of the bases, the little rubber bands that held the braces together, the pain and the numbness and the standard diet of soup and ice-cream (I had the teeth, mind you, but couldn’t use them. Humph.) that followed. I stuck to it. I came to view the clinic as a monthly pilgrimage site. I learnt the various dental departments on the signboards off by heart (although I can’t remember them now, so don’t bother) and learnt to speak coherently with two hands and a metal instrument inside my mouth. I also learnt the ecstasy of having the braces taken off, and the delirious relief of smiling and watching a smile composed mostly of the colour white, as opposed to the earlier combinations of yellow, green, blue and grey. I learnt to wear my retainer religiously for a month, and then to bury it in a place where it would never be found.

It’s a pity that a smile got me into so much trouble, but it’s a little better to live with now that I know I look passably decent when I grin. The equatorial jungle is straightened out, and I have all twenty-eight teeth intact - four were removed to allow for the Great Purge. I still have a line of dental cement holding four of my front teeth together (someone must have forgotten about it, conveniently), but lets not tell anyone that. To remove it would mean another visit to another clinic, and I’m willing to take a chance that the cement will remain where it is for the rest of my life, or at least until all four teeth fall out together, whichever comes first.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

?

I haven't decided what this blog is about.

I know it serves as a random place to air my empty-headed and increasingly frivolous thoughts in. I get a colourful web page that gives me an immense sense of accomplishment (I got technology to work in my favour!! Oh frabjous day, Callooh! Callay!) I get wonderful, silently-suffering people who comment on what I cough up - bless you all. I get people to read what I write, when the strangest part is that the writing here is anything but writing. It's - for lack of a better word - spewing. I'm comfortable with the number of bloggers I'm annoying, and with the number of pictures I'm uploading, and with who I'm quoting and misquoting. But I still get this feeling of in-betweenness at times, as if I don't quite know what I'm doing here. I've been learning to be friends with this feeling for a while now (since when I was three, to be precise), so I don't mind. I shall not complain. Besides, I may not know what this blog is about, but at least I know what it is NOT about.

1) It is definitely not about deepdarkmorbidpoetry. Can't do it, never will be able to.

2) Not about my ever-enduring singledom, the lack of eligible men (although certain snide comments may be passed about this phenomenon.. sometimes), or the incorrigibility of the male species. Men are fun as long as they are not taken seriously. And yes, I think that sounded like Marilyn Monroe too. But I'm not blonde, more' s the pity.

3) No political analysing, and no homework help-appeals, since I am very uninterested, and therefore very insincere, about both.

4) No girlie stuff. Not possible. Especially since I've started saying "Gah" to a lot of things lately, much like Mr. Goon. Not at all ladylike.

5) No highbrow stuff (Have you noticed how a beetle on a leaf symbolises the cosmos? *Broods till coffee mug grows another cobweb*). We have enough of that already. And I've always been one for living life first, and then analysing it.

So there. Five points. Genuine ones, too. And that amounts to my blog being about a lot of other things, only I can't really pinpoint them. I think this shall be a Seinfeld kind of blog. A Blog About Nothing. And I shall be George Costanza - not because I am like him in any way, except for the premature balding - but merely because he was always my favourite, and I think I need a little more excitement in my life. And if it comes my way due to my hot-headed outbursts, so be it. I'd like to get worked up about things once in a while. It makes people more entertaining.

P.S. I should have added another point, an anti-whining one, but that is just not possible. Whining makes up the essence of my life nowadays, and if you can't stand it, Gah.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Chromatophobic? You Wish.



I walked down the whole length of Gariahat last evening to the one shop that ensures I spend whatever I have in my wallet at the moment. It’s a dingy, musty little shop that looks woefully out of place in technicolour Gariahat. You might miss it if you don’t know you’re looking for it – the signboard is, ironically, a sorry piece of peeling paint and metal. I always wonder if this is what Ollivander’s in Diagon Alley looks like, because the whole shop gives out an air of neglected colourlessness. But oh, the things it stocks. They’re all packed away in cardboard boxes, but you only have to say the word and out come little bottles of paint and fine-haired brushes, iridescent sticks of colour and fine-smelling sheets of paper. This shop is called Kumar’s Concern, and it’s the one place I go if I have money to spend. Apart from a bookstore, that is.

It seems strange that a shop stocking art supplies should be so devoid of colour. But that is the singlemost reason that adds to its air of lazy enchantment. I feel random little sparks hanging in the air as art students, schoolchildren and random experimenters ask for canvas and palettes – sparks that in muted excitement affix themselves to the people who walk in and out, exuding an air of you-never-know. Expressions waiting to be painted. Foliage waiting to be captured. Masterpieces waiting to happen.

I find myself buying something or the other. A stick of charcoal, a tube of paint, a notebook. Everything looks so luxuriously new and alluring - till I read the price label. Art as a hobby is shockingly expensive. But then, I suppose most hobbies are. The one hobby that isn’t expensive, however, is Colours. Its probably the reason I took up art in the first place. I don’t know when I realized that my love of colour bordered on obsession, but there it is. The only part of me that’s even remotely sensitive is sensitive to colour.

Colours are one of the Important Things in my life. When we moved into the new flat, I nearly reduced my mother to tears about the colour of the walls in my room, and how they corresponded to the bedsheets and the table lamp. If I see something wrong with a print or a signboard or a dress in terms of colour, I tend to worry myself silly that I can't correct it. I go watch Karan Johar movies to see Rani Mukherjee’s sari flashing through a beautifully coordinated set. The same can be said about Sanjay Leela Bhansali, although I did fall asleep halfway through Devdas and then woke up just in time to see the last scene (Which was good, because Shah Rukh Khan finally died, and we got to see the burnished leaves and the trees and everything else that was so much more beautiful than his drunken face). I go crazy about the art direction in musicals, and I feel so much better about going to school now that they've repainted it and got the tone of the colours right.

It’s no wonder, then, that I feel like a horse that has lost its side-patches (or whatever they’re called) when I walk down a place like Gariahat. Everything is in motion, and out of the corners of my eyes I catch a dizzying whirl of fuchsia and glitter and gleaming brown leather and clinking golden earrings and plastic flowers and orange jungle-printed skirts and cheerful blue cups and glinting, poisonous-looking bottles of perfume, and it all converges with the sounds and the heckling, and I feel like I’m in one of those psychedelic movies, only it isn’t drugs or alcohol. It’s just the experience of being bombarded with too many colours at the same time, and not being able to do anything about it, and strangely, exulting at how they all seem to fit together. It's the feeling of catching shades I haven't seen before out of the corner of my eye, and finding them vanished when I look properly.

If I do go abroad for higher studies, I don’t know what I'll do without the colour. It’s not like India’s the most colourful place on earth, but it’s a different kind of colourful. A kind of hectic, maddening vividness that bowls me over every single second of looking around. I don’t think I’ll find people wearing such garish clothes with such élan anywhere else. And strangely, the mismatched colours don’t seem to matter when I see a whole stall of rainbow sunglasses, the hawker wearing a pair of oversize purple goggles. Here is Colour. I smile. Bring on the eccentricity; this is a place where I fit right in.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Nash My Teeth and Hope For A Dry Answer Sheet.

There are times when life socks me in the solar plexus and expects me to handle it. Like now, when I have exams coming up and feel supremely unprepared. To top it all, our school honchos have suddenly come up with a brainwave to ensure that all students submit copperplate answer scripts of impossible neatness – they've made it mandatory to use fountain pens.

Up, up my soul! This inaction is abominable.
Perhaps it is the result of disturbances abdominable.

-Ogden Nash, Spring Comes To Murray Hill.

Only, this isn't inaction. It's a positive death sentence. What beats me is how we’re supposed to submit neat answer scripts when none of us can afford a Mont Blanc, and the old-timers stocked in my stationary shop have very leaky bladders. I’ve already managed to Jackson Pollock my hand, and I’m still worrying about how I’m going to finish my answer script, when writing with a ball pen just gives us a minute to check our papers before the final bell rings. And my first exam is Hindi. And this is the BOARD YEAR (I always visualize it like that – big capitals flying all around, with ominous music playing in the background), and each and every exam will matter. AND I know I can’t take a risk with my first terminal papers because the colleges I want to go to will take them into account, but try telling that to my school management. Education is a futile thing.

As you can see, I have taken to reading Nash compulsively to cheer myself up. And that doesn’t help either, because I don’t think my Hindi teacher will appreciate it if I cough up a quirky essay in place of a shuddh sanskaar/ mera desh concoction. I don't suppose it matters, Hindi was always a sea of bewilderment for me. Especially with the soul-searching poems that the CBSE textbooks always seem to have. The things you have to do to have a Career.

Introspective Reflection
I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance
Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.

What a genius. And people wax lyrical about Sylvia Plath.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

JK Rowling is a kindred spirit.

"Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"



My favourite lines from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Hah.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Agony and The Ecstasy.

There is one complaint I have always had with imaginative writers – they give me heartache with their food. When you have a hyperactive imagination and think up the most ingenious things one can eat, you ought to spare a thought for a hungry little kid with an imagination equally hyperactive. Which is why I can almost always be seen with a wistful expression on my face after I’ve (re)read certain books – it just kills me that I will never know what Butterbeer or Frobscottle taste like, or find a shrine as perfect as Honeydukes or Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Eventually, my wistfulness did materialize into something more productive – I took to cooking. Correction, I took to birdwitted attempts at creating Eat Me cupcakes. I also tried to recreate everything found in the Land of Birthdays when it came to the Faraway Tree. Turns out you can’t cook if you daydream, work yourself into a frenzy, or jump when the oven beeps. I didn’t exactly flavour cakes with liniment, or put salt in the strawberries, but the sorrowful concoctions I forced down my folks’ throats weren’t any better.

I think I am a better cook now; I do come up with edible things now and then. But what I call the book-hunger tops any masterpiece I manufacture. I remember running home from school, hastily putting together a plate of jam sandwiches, and trying desperately to get through a particularly toothsome Five Find-Outer mystery while my grandmother watched grainy black-and-white movies at full volume without her glasses on (she’d have done better to listen to the radio, but there, I’m diverging). Blyton made me hungry, so did Dahl. Dickens too. CS Lewis always had his characters eating mushrooms and fried eggs with talking badgers for company. And, as always, there was a veritable overdose of roast boar with Obelix. These are books I grew up eating, quite literally. And the more the descriptions, the more I slathered the jam onto the bread. And I hoped beyond hope that I’d simply walk into a page someday.

And I wondered how I grew so fat. But then, the well-fed women in the stories always ended up in ivy cottages by the seaside with buried treasure under the floors and smugglers nearby – or at their mundanest, a rabid dog. So I don’t think I’ll complain.






For all of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, do go find an emo blog. The only thing I’ve even come close to slitting is a sachet.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The World is a Voyeur.

Laugh all you want, but a window is a very important thing. In the room I lived in for the first seventeen years of my life, I had a window with an attached balcony. It just proves what a tiresomely unsocial kid I was, but it became the centre of a little drama that I watched wide-eyed everyday. The window looked down upon a little alley between two buildings, which was home to a little shanty inhabited by a chronically drunk durwan and his family. I learnt a few lessons through that window. As an unabashed observer, I learnt the most exhaustive variety of Bangla swearwords. I also learnt that the durwan, or Potbelly, as I called him, had the most terrifying gargle in the world - I was woken up by its sound at six every morning. I learnt that there were these two children my age who studied their lessons by the light of a Petromax, and that the wife took pains over her fish preparations, which were clearly a weekly luxury. I learnt their daily habits and their way of life, and how they moved and how they stood from a strange top-sideways angle that can only be achieved when you're looking down from the fourth floor. I doubt if I'd recognise any one of the family if I met them face to face, but I had every tilt of their heads memorised from my viewpoint.

The most important lesson that I learnt, however, was that no matter how poor you are and how frustrated you are, you do not return home sloshed at one in the morning, drag your wife and daughter out, and attempt to abuse them. There is this old neem tree that grew over the alley, and all the neighbours who had woken up stood staring from their worlds of four-walled rooms and balconies as the son broke off a low-growing branch, and hit his father full on the face with it.

My father crossed the hall at that moment, opened my door, scooped me up, and carried me away to my parents' bedroom. I wish he had let me stay.

There were other brawls in that alley, and a lot of merrymaking during festivals, with songs playing on a battered radio. Much dancing and raucous laughter. Wedged in between the two comfortable buildings, the alley was like a separate, parallel universe. I spent many hours by my window. watching a tall gulmohar that burst into flames every summer, and how the children collected the fallen blooms and decorated their doorway with them. By night, the neem tree and the alley became the focus of activity. They told me stories, and I grew up with them. Then I moved into a new flat in an unimaginatively civilised area this year, and left old Potbelly and his family behind. I got a big window that covers almost the whole of one wall, but looks out onto a busy road that stretches far into the horizon. It looks glitzy at night when the cars and buildings are lit up, and it looks quite glamourous when it rains and the raindrops make psychedelic light patterns on the glass, but there is none of the old familiarity that the alley gave me.

It rained gloriously the whole of last week. Our school remained closed due to a mysterious short circuit, and after many months I sat down by my window and looked out. It took some time to get used to, but I realised I could make do with this window after all. I could even create a new parallel universe. And I remembered, I am ashamed to say, in a strange slow-motion filmi sequence, the neem branch hitting Potbelly on his jaw, and the stunned, almost comical look on his face. I know I have always been a little over-dramatic, but I don't know why it's that one memory which came back to me. It's strange what one remembers sometimes.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Again.

You are the man who offered me his seat the first day I got onto the bus.

I don't know whether it is a strange sympathy for a schoolgirl taking the public bus - I see the mute, fatherly pity in your eyes, and I wonder how to tell you that I do it out of a strange adolescent desire to assert my independence, not out of compulsion. I wonder how to tell you that my school bag is not the biggest trial in my life. I don't quite know how, so I mumble a word of thanks and sink gratefully into my seat.

Unwittingly, you have given me a moment. A moment that allows me to forget the boredom of the forty minutes I spend in that bus, fighting a wave of perspiration and clutched briefcases. You have given me a compulsive belief that someday I will chance upon you again when I am older, and offer you my seat to return that favour on that first uncertain day.

I do not forget faces.

I invent a game. I observe all the people climbing into this metal contraption, and I study their faces. I look for the nuances of features and bone structure, note the interweaving of brows and lashes and nostrils and teeth. I give them names. I weave stories about them and recount their histories - fabricate tragedies and romances, workplace problems and marital spats. And sometimes, I forget to get off at my stop.

Now you are in a sari, defensive and gruff, elbowing your way through the mass of travellers hanging onto the railing. Now you are in a worn kurta, fanning yourself with a newspaper. Now, you flick your bunch of tickets at me, indicating that I should respond with my jingle-jangle bits of change. Now, you are every other person looking towards the door, waiting to get off.

And the journey seems over so soon, but it is different everyday. The only constancy being that I still have not run into you.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Another one on tennis. The last one, I promise.

Well, let me elaborate on the earlier entry. Roger Federer is my ultimate Georgette Heyer man. Only a little flawed, cool, calm, composed, overwhelmingly confident, and, what do you know - he has a nice smile.

Roger is the kind of person you can get fanatic about and mindlessly worship, even want to marry. But if I had to choose a person to bestow a teenage girl-crush on, it would be Novak Djokovic. In fact, I'm pretty much sold already.





It's kind of unfair, really. He's only nineteen. He earns a million a match. He's impossibly cute. And he has the nicest, clean-shaven smile ever. Plus he has a head of hair you feel like ruffling. And Vijay Amritraj called him "The heir to Roger's throne".

I'm just a little smitten. It's raining, and I need some form of distraction. I promise to not gush in my next entry. But before I stop, here's another pic. This time, in a tuxedo.




Go on, tell me I'm being silly.

Nimble at the Wimble.


I feel a strange kinship with The All England Lawn Tennis Club. It’s been raining incessantly here, and it’s been raining incessantly there too. Half an hour into any game, down comes the rain. Then the officials scurry around covering the court, and a whole bunch of white-clothed tennis players who should have been running around on the grass are left to switch on their iPods and meditate about life. It doesn’t really matter. A rainy spell doesn’t mean the tennis disintegrates, and let’s face it, all those promotional ads showing the strawberries-and-cream do help you stay put.

At the end of the day, Wimbledon still rules. It has a funny name, though. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to come up with a name like Wimbledon. Leave out the “don”, and the fact remains that the first part of the word is, quite simply, “wimble”. But in spite of (or perhaps because of) the name, Wimbledon remains my favourite tennis tournament – heightened all the more by the fact that it is clearly Roger Federer’s territory.

My attempts at making Roger win the French Open included much finger-wagging and air-punching, not to mention arguing about his unforced errors with my father and waving a mineral water bottle about animatedly. It wasn’t witchcraft. He lost miserably, and I hated him for a whole week afterwards. But we eventually made up, and here I am, wagging my fingers as usual. And I can’t help but beam as he stalks about the court like a wiry panther (let’s ignore that beige outfit), turns some pirouettes, floats about on the grass, flourishes his racket, and creates poetry. He makes a game which involves so much sweating, running around and straining of limbs look ridiculously, incredibly easy.

This is my toast to you, Roger. Thanks for making me actually take to a sport and promote it obsessively. Thanks for making me add another note to my wish list – I want to watch Roger play at Wimbledon before I die, and eat the strawberries-and-cream while I’m at it. And above all, during an era when most other players’ game strategy consists of getting the ball over the net by hitting it as hard as is humanly possible, thanks for making tennis look beautiful.

And when you win, I shall throw my cushion into the air with a hurrah.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Growing Up



And there shall be no more time to climb trees.
Not that I have climbed any,
But the dream must cease
Because terrible things like higher education
Are going to happen to me.

And I must not whistle.
Not that I did it before,
But now that I can't do it anymore
The urge comes back to me,
And terrible things like maturity
Leave me completely at sea.

And I must not be inappropriate,
Whatever that means,
And my whole life leans
Towards Responsibility,
And terrible things like sophistication
Will change me horribly.

And there shall be no more time for laughter
As laughter is frivolity.
And income tax, and investments,
And a confusing salary
Are what I need, and my every deed
Will be held up to me,
Because terrible things like a Career
Are going to happen to me.

And there shall be no more time
To climb my childhood tree.


My eighteenth birthday approaches, and I feel littler now than I have ever done in my life. I think I'll dedicate this month to the pursuit of everything I love about being a kid. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go play football in the rain with my six year old neighbour.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cameras are uncomplicated, eh? Have you tried handling your computer? Huh? HUH?!?!?

This is exactly why I hate technology. I go off on a wonderful holiday with a new camera (a professional Canon DS21251, might I add), wanting to finally educate myself about photography a little. But along comes my mesmerized father who wants to push every single shiny button on the camera - not that I blame him for that, I did all the fiddling I had to on the train to Delhi and then accused him of slowing down the shutter speed to five seconds. And then, he insisted on photographing every single cottage on every single mountain road, leaving me to kick random pebbles and start a minor landslide. I hate it when elders behave like children. All the sanctity goes out of childhood.

If I had a normal, boring, black camera, I’d click a picture, maybe click again for safety, then resign myself to fate until the film developed. If the picture came out bad, I’d say “Oh, well” and face the world with a smile. But with a digital camera you can take the perfect picture, so you have to – it’s like a compulsive action to click, check the photo, delete it, aim two inches to the left, click, check, delete, aim two inches to the right, click, check, delete, and so on till you realise you missed watching the sunset you set out to drink in, all because of a metal box with fancy knobs.

I did take my share of pictures, though. I’d realized long ago that you have to lose every degree of your self-respect and sanity if you’re behind a camera lens, but this trip made me reconsider every bit of the intelligence I thought I possessed. I chased butterflies till they alighted on a leaf and clicked for all I was worth – and realized the camera was still in black-and-white mode. But then I went up to the prettiest Himachali girls I’d ever seen in my life and asked if I could take a picture of them. I got away with it, getting only an uncertain smile. Had a boy my age tried it, he’d have been assailed by shrieks and a heavy branch in his face. I made little kids roll about on a meadow. I photographed white flowers and yellow flowers and orange flowers, and felt like I’d revolutionized the world. I lost my footing, fell into piles of dried horsedung, and still felt powerful. I could Click. I could Capture. I was invincible. I suppose technology does have its merits. Sometimes.

Back to the present. I get back home, and plan a nice blog entry about the holiday. I try to upload the pictures onto the computer (including the mathematically calculated sunsets) and discover that the USB thing is faulty – so faulty that it makes my computer restart and shut down seven times in a row without me touching a single key. I whimper at the strange sounds my computer’s making, then try again. This time, my computer shuts down and stays that way for two days.

Sometimes, technology is a pain in the wrong place. I miss my old camera, and I miss my old non-blogging days. At least I didn’t feel this overwhelming desire to share the darn sunsets with the entire universe.

I think I shall revert to painting.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Adrift Already.

Yesterday was nothing special, another day drifting into anonymity. Woke up early with a most nasty bellyache, went off to give the SAT Subject Tests, successfully threw up before the test in a bathroom that redefined bathrooms, got distracted by the invigilator’s shade of lipstick, groaned through world history and literature – partly out of my own ineptness, and partly because of my tummy, which was by then doing weird flipflops – and then felt sorry for myself the rest of the day.

Today I am off for a holiday, heading for the hills. I have a new camera *crazy celebration dance* so my next post WILL have pictures of dense undergrowth and mountains. I have chucked my cell phone into the bottom-most drawer of my table, and packed my clothes into the one side of the suitcase that I was designated. Two pairs of jeans and a hoard of sweatshirts don’t take up much space; I wanted to carry my own knapsack, but mothers are sometimes the most wonderful and sometimes the most unreasonable creatures on the planet.

I’m trying very unsuccessfully to complete a lot of things at the last moment. Multitasking always hated me. To take a break, I’m doing the most sensible thing I’ve done this crazy morning – typing out the last blog entry in a week or so. I’ve been tagged by New Age Scheherazade, and I shall have to type out the last paragraph of Page 123 of the book I’m reading currently, which happens to be Adrift On The Nile by Naguib Mahfouz. The only other Mahfouz I’ve read, Palace Walk, shares a love-hate relationship with me. I read it in bursts and starts, abandon it for three months, then pick up where I left off and read again. The last time I checked I had a hundred pages left. I’ve always disliked translations, but this Mahfouz is different. It’s giving me thrills already. Anyway, Page 123:

“He paused for a moment before saying: “No.” His hesitation made a deep impression on everyone. Why don’t I put the brazier out on the balcony and have my own fire festival? Its blaze is immortal, unlike that of false stars. But women are like the dust, known not only for their rich scent but by the way they seep and settle into you. Cleopatra, for all her amours, never divulged the secret of her heart. The love of a woman is like political theatre: there is no doubt about the loftiness of its goal, but you wonder about the integrity of it. No one benefits from this houseboat like the rats and cockroaches and the geckos. And nothing bursts in unannounced through the door like grief. And yesterday the dawn said to me when it broke that really it had no name.”

I also have to tag five others. I tag Annesha because of her single-minded insistence at stuffing this wonderful book down my throat if I didn’t read it, I tag Brinda at irrelevantbanter, and Flamebird. Also Mrinalini of the Demented Thoughts. That makes four. I can’t think of anyone else, so we’ll just assume I’m mathematically challenged, which is true anyway.

One amazing quote which integrates the two things I love doing most – “The world is like a book, and he who has never traveled has only read a page.” No, “he” wasn’t one of the two things. I shall act offended, and storm off the page now.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"But," said she, "What does it mean?"

Read this one first in Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster, and obsessed about what it meant for a while. What I loved most was that it was such an open-ended poem with so many little clues. A beautiful little jigsaw puzzle. Came across it again yesterday in a SAT Literature test, and nearly cried.

I don't think Emily Dickinson and I are friends. Not yet. But this one gave me a queer nice feeling. I'm putting it up as a tribute to when I unabashedly mulled over poetry and inflicted little bits of it on my friends. Nowadays, culinary endeavours are all I inflict.

I miss inflicting poetry. Here it is:


Part One: LifeXII

I asked no other thing,

No other was denied.

I offered Being for it;

The mighty merchant smiled.


Brazil? He twirled a button,

Without a glance my way:

“But, madam, is there nothing else

That we can show to-day?”


In passing, the SAT's critical reading section has some gems of literary passages from books that I've never read, and shall probably not read, thanks to the fact that they don't tell you where the passage is from. Now I call that cruel. I can't remember all the sentences, or the characters, or be expected to after I'm done with a ten-section exodus with some very nasty passages about the peopling of the Americas or the origins of snoring.

But the nice little passages, they make me smile during the yawnathon. They're another kind of jigsaw puzzle. More open ends.

I grew up on jigsaw puzzles, yes. But only because I beheaded all my Barbies. I had to.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The school magazine is useless, unless you turn the pages into paper airplanes.

As you will no doubt conclude after perusing the following article, I engineered it to provoke within my english teacher reactions of extreme annoyance. It's fun, rather. Irritating her, I mean.

That was two parts Sherlock Holmes (clear-cut and precise) and one part Priyanka Kumar(confused as hell).



AN ARTICLE ON AN ARTICLE

It all started when I was told to submit an article for the school magazine.

Writer’s Block, like a Bollywood song-and-dance sequence, strikes when least expected. It smacks you in the face just when you are about to get down to chewing your pen and staring dreamily at nothing in particular. You discover you don’t know what to write. You have nothing to say. You feel choked, and could do with some hot soup. You feel miserable and very, very tiny.

I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t pen a twelve-line poem on nature. I knew I was in bigger trouble when I couldn’t write an article about global warming. I realized I knew nothing about global warming or nature, so I had better keep quiet about it. I fretted and fumed a little more, and made a very important discovery.

Writing an article for the school magazine is a daunting task. You have to make sure that you have pleased all parties who know you. Your teachers must be satisfied with the quality of your work, so it must be of a certain standard. Your friends must not disembowel you for using big words and shaming them, so it must be simple. The general public must not lynch you for writing four pages of rubbish just to annoy them, so it must be short. To cut a long story short, an article for a school magazine must be like the Japanese haiku – short, concise, and vague enough to make people think that you know what you are talking about.

And yes, the most difficult part is what kind of a literary masterpiece you give in. If you are writing a story, it must be a story that fits into two pages and doesn’t have a dog called Tommy in it. If you are submitting a poem, you have to make sure that it actually rhymes. If it doesn’t, you have to make sure it explores themes of disappointment and betrayal within the certified SFMP (Standards For Morbid Poetry) limit. You have to make sure that the jokes you submit induce an acceptable degree of laughter. You have to submit puzzles, riddles and crosswords with the correct answers. To top it all, you have to make it look like an effortless mission.

So what does a student do when faced with such a problem? Which corner does she cower in? And the most important question – WHAT does she write about?

I chewed on my pen more than necessary. I discarded one poem on examinations. I toyed with creating a cartoon strip. And I realized that I could write an article about writing an article. It seemed like a safe bet. Consider the average student, Student A, and her best friend, Student B, engaged in a conversation the day the school magazine comes out.

Student A: I wonder what this is? It’s called “An Article on an Article”

Student B: I don’t care. What do you have for lunch?

Student A (Running a practiced eye over the page): It looks like she’s written about writing an article.

Student B: I wouldn’t read that if I were you. What do you have for lunch?

Student A: No wait, it looks like she’s analysed the kind of articles people write for a school magazine.

Student B: She needs help. What do you have for lunch?


So you see, I face the world with a radiant countenance. I go unread, and do not get lynched. Sometimes, I suppose Writer’s Block helps.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Wasting Time Is An Art

I have two weeks to fill my head with the entire history of the world, keep it there, go to a test centre and try valiantly to darken annoying little circles in the correct order, then rest in peace. I think I shall stop using the internet for a while. It has taught me too many things about history.

Firstly, Genghis Khan had a grandson named Hulagu. After I'd finished laughing insanely at the name, I took a look at an ancient portrait of his. I'm not over the droopy little moustache and the pigtail as yet.

Secondly, Gothic architecture probably evolved as some kind of cosmic joke against God. However, it was used for cathedrals. So much for the dark ages.

Asian business culture. Japanese bankers before the Asian economic crisis took their clients to $500- a-person dinners at Tokyo's no-pan-shabu-shabu restaurants. The main attraction of these restaurants? Not the shabu-shabu (a beef dish), but the waitresses in short skirts and no-pan (no panties). Some restaurants kept the sake high up so that the girls had to stretch to reach it, and some had mirrors on the floors. The next time anyone talks about a business lunch, I think I may be excused for sniggering. The restaurants no longer exist now - you eat your shabu-shabu, bow thirty times, put on your shoes and scoot. What did I learn from this? That it is unfair to brand the Japanese as unimaginative. And that they shall never test me on Asian business culture.

Fourthly, Henry the Eighth, had he existed today, would be starring in a Fifty Cent Video.

I hate Wikipedia. It has corrupted me and wasted approximately four hours of my time - precious minutes that could be devoted to reading up on the civil wars in Mogadishu - or whatever else it is that I mean.



How I love this webcomic. And me hating math and all. Sometimes, you live a paradox.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Poem Written Long Ago.

The Making of a Storyteller

Story time.
Put on the bedside lamp,
And tuck me in well.
Now, if you please,
Start.

The beginning should have been better.
I think I’ll invent a new one.

The characters –
But I don’t like them the way they are.
So I’ll improvise.
The hero’s more interesting now,
The villain more menacing.
The story continues, weaving its tale.

I improvise all the time.

The plot thickens, but I make it thicker.
The pace quickens, but I make it quicker.
Then comes the nail-biting finish
I’ll add some more details, though,
And end it the way I want to.
The story goes where I want it to go.
It’s better that way, I think.

It’s time for me to close my eyes.
I can hear you putting out the light.
Then the door closes softly.
You think I’m asleep
But I’m lying still,
All athrill,
Thinking about that story.

When I’m grown up,
Whenever that will be,
I think I’ll write a new story…
Write it my way,
Just to show them all
The way it’s really done.

Technophobic Does Not Necessarily Mean Paranoid.


In short, my life.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Bosh. And Blah. And Unearthly Hours.

I hate socialising.

The problem with having friends who have friends who have friends is that they are always out somewhere doing something. They wonder why you don’t join them, and ask you to. So you walk in a door you’ve never seen into a room that’s filled with people you don’t know, and being a competent, rational human being, you smile, say “What ho”, and survive.

Not me. I walk in, promptly get bothered because of the sheer magnitude of people (usually six or seven), feel shy, and discover I have no tongue. I am introduced, and I think of all the interesting things I could say, like “Hi, I just saved a monkey” or “I have a purple wallet”. I’d be interested if someone said something like that to me. I know I just have to smile and be polite, and settle down, and I’ll get along fine.

Instead of which, le idioteque Priyanka grins, mumbles something, becomes very interested in the décor of the room, sinks onto the bed, finds herself an insignificant little corner and demands food.

Four hours later, she walks out, heaves a sigh and scoots back home. So she doesn’t actually survive.

The funny part is, I can’t change this because I actually like being the girl in the innocuous corner. I like observing people, and I like the whole scene playing out in front of me. The funnier part is that most people wouldn’t call me an introvert. The funniest part is that I blame it all on my zodiac sign.

If you have an imagination, imagine what life would be if you were a cusp. And a Cancer-Leo cusp at that. I am no astrologer, but from what I understand Leo is the extrovert and Cancer is the introvert. Leo is the flamboyant, flashy leader and Cancer is the sentimental, wistful dreamer. So if I am a combination of the two, I should be some sort of Split Personality case, or, at the most, a dual kind of person. At least that would be a little exciting. Instead, fate chose me to be a very, very confused person.

So I blame my zodiac, and get away with being obnoxious at times and terrifyingly shy at others. That is not being a hypocrite. It is being an escapist. And it isn’t that bad either. At least I get the food.

I know I shall delete this entry after a week, because I shall realise that either I spoke too much, or that for once in my life I hit upon the truth. Or, I shall be undecided and decide to get rid of it just to save myself a headache. It won’t save me from socialising, though – I still don’t know why I hate that.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Blog Holes and Revelations

At the end of the day, I must face it. I care for my blog. I spend time changing the fonts and colours so that it looks pwetty. I add pictures so that people may look at them, stare enraptured, then heave a sigh and say “Oh well, now for the written stuff”. I think before I make politically incorrect statements. And yes, when I lie blatantly, like in the previous sentence, I allow serious consideration for public opinion and admit it.

A blog is a very tiresome thing. It will not behave like it should. It will either curl up and refuse to open, or, when it opens, it will declare war against your keyboard and make sure you have to click each link thirty times to publish a post that comprises three lines. It will behave like a spoilt, nasty baby and refuse to acknowledge the fact that you are capable of spelling correctly and inserting commas in the right places and putting a full stop after a particularly long sentence – things you have conditioned yourself to believe ever since you got a four out of ten on a school essay.

A blog can give rise to particularly virulent cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It comes out of its cyberwomb, sucks its toes impatiently till you have named it, and gurgles at its belly button till you have written the first few well-chosen words. Then it has you hooked. It makes sure that you come back once in a while, even if you don’t particularly feel like writing, because, well, others will read it, won’t they? And they must not be bored. It makes you return every few hours to check whether anyone has commented on your entries, to the point where you wonder how nice it would be if the number of times you checked translated into chocolates won, or free service from a Clean-A-Room facility. Or, for that matter, assassination attempts on George Bush. Worst of all, it paralyses your decision-making ability because it makes you think that people want to read something, and only a particular something, today. What do I write about? Do I highlight big words? Do I insert a picture of my pet pebble?

In fact, I believe blogs turn you human. It’s a paradox, because the human blogs – friendly, optimistic, hopeful blogs – aren’t really worth reading (what are Art Of Living courses for?). But the Other Blogs – quirky, unabashed, genuinely interesting ones – are in danger of evolving.

I always did prefer hairy simians.

Anyway, the reason my blog is making me inflict this entry on the world in general is that I hope the ones I enjoy reading don’t turn human too soon. I shall also endeavour, in an instance of extreme labour (with my tongue sticking out between my teeth and beads of ye olde perspiration trickling down my speckled brow) to save my blog.

I am not without hope. I have been politically incorrect today. Oh well, we all know how much of the world’s writing Georgie boy reads when it has nothing to do with four-footed bleaters.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Something that no one needs to know, but I've put it up anyway because I'm sadistic. So There.

If there is one male character from literature I could be, apart from Gandalf and Bertie Wooster and, in a roundabout way, Captain Haddock, I’d be Robert Kincaid from The Bridges of Madison County.

I know, he’s fifty-two when he finds the love of his life, who is already married, and then can’t be with her. He then goes away nobly and dies. He cries (only a little) in parts. He is rather good-looking and has grey hair. In short, he isn’t me.

But he spends his childhood writing down names of places on pieces of paper and tacks them to his walls along with picture postcards. Something I’ve done. And he hopes beyond hope that he’ll get to see those places someday. Something I do. Of course, I curse airfares and passports into the bargain, but let's overlook that.

He is a photographer who likes W.B.Yeats. I obsess about being able to photograph. And - gulp - I like Yeats.

He also works with National Geographic. He gets paid to travel all over the world, photograph things and write a little about them. I think I could deal with that.

When you can have a job like that, who needs unrequited love?


Iceland. A landscape exploding in fire and ice, and the first on my Robert Kincaid list. Don't worry, I'll get there all right.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

On Life As I Think I Know It

People are strange
For the simple reason that they turn up uninvited and sit on your sofa and expect you to give them a drink.
Then they ask you stupid questions about things that happened three centuries ago
And look at you strangely when you answer before you think.

You tell them you don't want to see them and would rather sleep,
And they get offended
But say your dog has three worms in his gall bladder,
And he needs to go to the vet right now,
And they know their time has ended.

People are strange because they think they can improve you.
They think they can cry and move you.
And that will prove you aren't deranged
So technically, you've changed.

They think they can change you.
People think they can unstrange you.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Disclaimer

Seventeen years ago a terrible, terrible thing happened. A Human Stain was born. We shall not name her.
Seven Years ago, an infinitely more terrible thing happened. The Human Blister mentioned above discovered the Internet.
Six months ago, catastrophe struck. The Human Fuzzball (yes, they're all the same person) realised that the Internet could be Used.

Hence, this blog.

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Many Stupid Thing.

"Sometime a horse i'll be, sometime a hound.
A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire."
- A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Discovering Shakespeare through a book set against the backdrop of post-WWII Europe. The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje. Poetry in prose.

There are books that you read and know you are in the presence of greatness. There are books you read and wonder why such wonderful thoughts never occurred to you. There are books you read and know you've finished a masterpiece. But you don't love them.

Then, there are books you read and know you will love them forever, even though they may not be Gibran or Tolstoy. They may be nothing, but you know you can still pick them up when you're eighty, and they'll be your friends still.

This entry is my tribute to three of my best friends.
To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje.
The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Well, not a tribute. I'm just going to type out some of my favourite parts of the books, and send them out into the what I call "The Wasteland" - the great internet void created by a million unread blogs - and hope that someone will read this, and smile. It is very important that they smile.

"There are betrayals in war that are childlike compared with our human betrayals during peace. The new lover enters the habits of the other. Things are smashed, revealed in a new light. This is done with nervous or tender sentences, although the heart is an organ of fire."
- The English Patient.

"Grown-ups love figures. When you talk to them about a new friend, they never ask questions about essential matters. They never say to you: 'What does his voice sound like? What games does he prefer? Does he collect butterflies?' They ask you: 'How old is he? How many brothers does he have? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father earn?' It is only then that they feel they know him."
- The Little Prince.

"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."
-To Kill A Mockingbird.

I'm afraid I'm a Book Person, but hopefully I'm a little bit of a Music Person and an Art Person and a Movie Person too. But first I'm a Book Person. There is beauty in words, just as there is beauty in music, and nature, and art.

The best religion is the worship of beauty. I am a follower.

I love all beauteous things.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

An Awfully Unimportant Entry

It’s one thing to be sitting in a corner café listening to some bloke twanging a guitar and wondering about the meaning of life, and quite another to be confronted with life at a busy crossroad when you’re trying to get home and there’s a protest afoot. Vehicles have stopped, people have temporarily been transformed into gaping simians, and the traffic policemen seem very preoccupied with their fingernails. You suddenly realize you’re but a youngster, and a girl at that.

And you have to cross the street.

There are of course three courses you can resort to now, which (oh, surprises) will determine the sort of person you are. You can:

a) Be the rebel and cross the street, defying the world and looking rather like a hero. Unless you trip over something and fall.
b) Be the bystander, and, well, stand by. Wait for the protest to get over, reply to all the pending text messages on your cell phone, and quietly walk into your house an hour late.
c) Be the escapist. Retrace your footsteps, walk the other way, find a side street and make your way through a concrete labyrinth and emerge unscathed on the other side of the protest. Then you’re the trickster.

And when you can’t do either of the three because in case of a) you’re simply not the rebel, or in case of b) you don’t really want to stand by and watch a protest, or in case of c) you have about as much sense of direction as a dysfunctional weathercock, you look for an alternative.

Because you have to cross the street.

As it turns out, there are different forms of escapism. You look leftways and rightways on the street you’re on, and spot another café. You walk in, thanking providence and consumerism for café chains. You sit down and order, knowing that an hour spent consuming a legal addictive stimulant and pondering about the meaning of life is better than anything else.

And there’s always a bloke with a guitar.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

THE HOURS.

Age Sixteen.
Feverish study,
Last-minute cramming,
Unfulfillment,
Door-slamming.
Battlefield.
Final yield.

Age seventeen.
Sickness and joy,
Liquor and art,
Cigarette butts,
A new start.
Easy gain,
Sunshine and rain.

Age eighteen.
Apocalypse now.
The future, and how.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Holyshit/Holichic?

Holi. One of the Other Days.You tumble out of bed, groggy-eyed, reach for the newspaper, and being a normal human being, turn to the gossip supplement. On the cover page is another city model with a painted Japanese-opera face, cavorting about in what looks suspiciously like a psychedelic tie-and-die trekking tent.

Holi Chic has arrived.

Now, let us suppose for one moment that you and I are not a city model with a Japanese-opera face. And let us suppose that in a momentary fit of March madness, you and I have actually dished out the dough for an outfit categorized as Holi Chic.

So here we are, cruising about the city on the latest mobike (is there such a thing anymore?). Suddenly, a whizzing sound is heard (not the wind, dummy. Don’t break the moment), and poof – our over-coloured costumes now have over-coloured faces to match, thanks to the mighty Water Balloon – which, by the way, contains something that is definitely not water.

Applause, please. You and I are officially eligible for the post of an African witch-doctor’s pet bird.

So what is wrong with the scene? The fact that our hallowed Holi couture cannot be worn anywhere else (gasp – where have I heard that before?). Which brings me to the point of this piece – why in heaven’s name would anyone want to splurge on a many-hued monstrosity when you can achieve the same effect by throwing on an old sheet and standing resolutely in the way of some overenthusiastic kid with a pichkari?

The great Holi Lunch, you explain. Everyone must show off their bejeweled bodies in the legendary “notun jaama”. So why not Holi Chic?

Well, once lunch is done and burped over, and you sway, overfed and over-bhaanged, to your – ahem – mobike, and you’re on the road again. Suddenly, there’s this whizzing in your ear (not the bhaang, dummy – DON’T break the moment) and what do you know, the Balloon Bearer has struck again.

Holy shit. A kid spoiled my Holi Chic.

Looks like the old bedsheet plan works better after all. Holi is the one festival where you are actually allowed to revert to juvenilia. No one arrests you for acting like a demented six-year old. Why spoil it? Maybe the gossip columns with headlines like “Spring High Fashion” ought to be converted into packets to hold the aabir. Okay, gulaal. Whatever. STOP breaking the moment!!

Unless, of course, you prefer a spin on the - cough - mobike.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Sometimes.

Things are not well.
The union budget blaring out from the television screen
Is a Conspiracy against me, I can tell.
Dinner isn’t ready.
The headache inside me swells
And burgeons to incredible proportions and I know I shall yell
Any second now,
Any second now.

The lure of insanity is heady.

I grit my teeth and lock the door of my room,
Lie listening to monsters in the shadowy gloom.
A knock on the door, then
Will see me walking out of the room to the TV screen
Mundane, boring, self-contained, serene -
Human again.

Political? Science??

Political Science baffles me. This isn't really the right time to say it, the night before the exam, but all I can make out after reading ten chapters is that human beings deserve to live in peace, protected by fundamental rights and legal backups and what not. They are entitled to live a life of respect and dignity, as dutiful citizens protected by the nation and its Constitution. In short, the world deserves to be perfect.

Heck, we all know that. but have the textbook writers ever heard of this bloke called George Bush?